A weakening social core?

Was at a talk and a Government leader mentioned what PM said at his National Day Rally speech – that our pursuit for economic growth is not for economic growth’s sake. It’s for our future, to give our children the best opportunities to succeed. Children and their happy faces – a picture of the future.

This should sound inspiring, as the audience gave a round of applause at the mention of children, right on cue. I clapped along, but was silently mulling – why don’t I feel any rousing emotions stirring inside. A question popped in my head. Whose children? I have one child but many of the cynics of my generation don’t have the “children” that the Government says we should be working for.

I look at people around my age. My friends are mostly single, in their 30s or approaching 30s. Some got married, then later divorced. Some broke up with their long-time boyfriends/girlfriends because of differences, unfulfilling relationships, or simply boredom. Some suffered unfaithful partners. Some never got attached. The women are too independent and assertive and scared off men. The men are too nice and soft and scared off women. And many more are searching for that elusive “the ONE”.

(THERE HE IS! The “ONE”!!)

¬†Those that find love eventually and settle down don’t have children, or are like me, just have one. Some by choice, also some not by choice – because spent so much time finding the right one, missed reproductive prime.

It is therefore no wonder that when the Government talks about creating a future together to provide for “our children”, many of us no longer can relate to that rhetoric. So if not children, what else would give people a stake in Singapore?

Throughout history, stable societies occur when the Government of the day managed to provide people with land to till, plant crops like rice in particular, to anchor them onto productive labour, so that they don’t spend their time in destructive pursuits. When people have something tangible to work for, they would have families and offsprings, which gave them more reason to work hard. This forms the stable core of society.

In Singapore, it would seem that HDB flats have been the equivalent of our “land to till”. Form family nucleus, settle down, buy a HDB flat at subsidised rate, and there, you’ve entered the social stable core because now you’ll have something you own, a stake in the nation. Then when the children comes along, this stake strengthens because it becomes more important to maintain the house, or you start thinking of having a bigger house.

But with more people now single and families having less or zero children, the social core is weakening. It’s easy to unplug from Singapore and go somewhere else. It also doesn’t help that singles don’t get HDB flats as easily. They are becoming a large group, but their needs are not really considered. Many feel alienated from society. There is nothing here for them, some say.

We may need to fundamentally look at what can give this group of Singaporeans a stake and feel a sense of ownership towards the nation. As society becomes more complex especially with the onslaught of the digital world, the definition of a “stake” could be drastically different from the mental picture of a padi field. Could it be jobs, careers, streetscape, or maybe this fuzzy thing called culture?¬†Would be something worth thinking about.

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